Rights flap jamming Marley bio


CORRECTED 10:03 p.m. PT March 20, 2008

NEW YORK -- The family of Bob Marley has refused to license any of his music for a biopic that the Weinstein Co. is prepping -- despite the fact that his widow, Rita Marley, is its executive producer.

The reason? There is a competing Martin Scorsese documentary being produced by the Marley family-owned Tuff Gong Pictures and Steven Bing's Shangri La banner, the first theatrical docu to license Marley songs.

The family members involved in the Scorsese docu claim they were unaware that the Weinstein project would be unveiled so soon and believe that its projected late-2009 release date would interfere with their docu's February 2010 release, which is timed to Marley's birthday.

"Martin Scorsese doesn't want to go out with a competing project, and Steven Bing has made deals with companies" that are now compromised, Blue Mountain Music president Chris Blackwell said. "The Weinstein project has put the documentary into jeopardy."

Blue Mountain Music is Marley's music publisher.

"All our efforts and support are currently directed toward the documentary," the untitled project's executive producer Ziggy Marley said. "We believe that this project is the best way to represent our father's life from his perspective, and any other film project pertaining to our father will be empty without his music to support it."

"When I sold the film rights to my book," Rita Marley told The Reporter, "the contract did not include any rights to use my husband's music."

The Marley family's lawyer Terri Dipalo denied the latest move is a negotiating tactic to compel the Weinsteins to buy Marley music rights or to up the price for those rights. She did suggest that "anything's possible" when asked if Marley's songs might end up in the Weinstein feature.

Music publisher Blackwell would like to see the biopic delayed until at least 2015 to avoid the two projects colliding. He said he talked with Harvey Weinstein on March 13 about the issue, but so far nothing has been resolved.

Blackwell told The Reporter that he expects a deal to be reached soon whereby the Weinstein Co. would take a stake in the Scorsese docu and agree to postpone its biopic.

Weinstein Co. spokesman Matthew Frankel responded, "We have great respect for the Marley family and Chris Blackwell and are in discussions to look at ways to mutually benefit both projects."